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Governments and NGOs have both been involved in efforts towards harmonisation for two important aspects of patent law—the grace period and prior user rights. Jonathan Osha, deputy reporter general at the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI), reports.
A grace period generally refers to a length of time before the filing date of a patent application during which certain disclosures of the invention, either by the inventor or by a third party, do not count as prior art that is applicable to the application. These types of disclosures are also sometimes referred to as ‘non-prejudicial’ disclosures. Most countries have laws recognising a grace period of some form.
However, the types of disclosures that would be covered by the grace period, the steps required to invoke the grace period and the term of any applicable grace period all vary substantially from country to country. Therefore, it is frequently the case that a disclosure that would be protected by the grace period law of one country is not protected by the grace period law of another country, resulting in a potential loss of rights.
The practical effect of this, at least for patent owners wishing to preserve the opportunity to protect their rights in all possible countries, is that the grace period law of the most strict country in effect sets the standard that patent owners must meet for all inventions.
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AIPPI, patent, grace period, NGOs, JPO